Many environmental justice leaders and organizers consider the EJ Movement to be a direct descendant of civil rights struggles or the latest manifestation of the justice campaigns that peaked in the 60s and 70s. What have we learned from the successes and failures of the Civil Rights Movement? RPE asked longtime activist and EJ champion Damu Smith to offer his insights.
“Because of the white bias of the environmental movement, there was almost no talk about cities, even though 85 percent of the population of the United States lived in cities and metropolitan area.”
Carl Anthony co-founded Race, Poverty and the Environment in 1990. In this interview with RP&E editor B. Jesse Clarke, Anthony shares his reflections on some of the key milestones that led to the creation of the Journal and its role in the ever-evolving environmental justice movement. Recorded at the studios of the National Radio Project, this interview introduces Radio RP&E—Podcasts and Broadcasts from the national journal of social and environmental justice. Read an edited excerpt below or listen to the full interview.
I’m a very old woman. I was born in 1915 in what was later known as the First World War, two years before the Russian Revolution. And because I was born to Chinese immigrant parents and because I was born female—I learned very quickly that the world needed changing.
But what I also learned as I grew older was that how we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change.
The time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to reimagine revolution and get beyond protest. We have to think not only about change in our institutions, but changes in ourselves. We are at the stage where the people in charge of the government and industry are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s up to us to reimagine the alternatives and not just protest against them and expect them to do better.
A Conversation with Movement Generation
Interview by Ellen Choy
The transformation of the Occupy moment into power for movements that can actually challenge entrenched economic interests will be a complex process. Movement Generation activists recently gathered to reflect on what it will take to make this happen.
Ellen Choy: Why are you committed to the Occupy movement?
Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan: We think Occupy’s critical because we believe that mass movements are a vital ingredient to shifting the public debate and moving us closer to transforming the economy and the political system. This is not just about making demands on the state, but also about reclaiming our right to meet our own needs directly, in community—to restore our resilience, our ability to support one another, to look after each other, to have the means to do that collectively. I think Occupy is presenting a really important model for how people can work together to set priorities and make decisions about how to best meet each others’ needs in a way that’s responsive and responsible to the place where they live.
The Occupy Wall Street movement named the core issue of our time: the overwhelming power of Wall Street and large corporations— something the political establishment and most media have long ignored.
But the movement goes far beyond this critique. This Changes Everything shows how the movement is shifting the way people view themselves and the world, the kind of society they believe is possible, and their own involvement in creating a society that works for the 99% rather than just the 1%.
Attempts to pigeonhole this decentralized, fast-evolving movement have led to confusion and misperception. In this volume, the editors of YES! Magazine bring together voices from inside and outside the protests to convey the issues, possibilities, and personalities associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This book features contributions from Naomi Klein, David Korten, Rebecca Solnit, Ralph Nader, and others, as well as Occupy activists who were there from the beginning, such as David Graeber, Marina Sitrin and Hena Ashraf. It offers insights for those actively protesting or expressing support for the movement—and for the millions more who sympathize with the goal of a more equitable and democratic future.
YES! Magazine is donating royalties from this book to support the Occupy Wall Street/99% movement. Order the full book or download an excerpt below.http://www.bkconnection.com/ProdDetails.asp?ID=9781609945879&PG=1&Type=BL&PCS=BKP
To order the print edition of "Autumn Awakening" use the back issues page.
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The history of organizing in the United States has always mirrored the politics of the country, with three major approaches driving social change: 1) Right-wing organizing as reflected in the Klu Klux Klan, the White Citizens’ Council, the Minuteman vigilantes, and the Tea Party Movement; 2) Pragmatic organizing, which fights for specific reforms in the interest of working people but is limited in scope and characterized by anti-Left ideology, at times making implicit deals with the U.S. Empire; 3) Left-wing organizing as characterized by militant opposition to racism, war, and the abuses of Empire, strategized by people who self-identify as revolutionary, radical, liberal, and progressive, also called “transformative organizing.”
Transformative Organizing, Now!
With the “Tea Party” rising in popularity and the Obama/Clinton administration busy pursuing the Empire’s objectives abroad, there is an urgent need for the Left to organize and generate a new movement rooted in a creative, anti-racist, anti-imperialist politics among working class communities of color. The most effective framework for doing this is transformative organizing because: it is in revolutionary opposition to the power structures of colonialism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism in its current form, which is imperialism; it actually transforms the consciousness of people who participate in the process; and it empowers organizers to stand up to the Right, reach out to people, and take on the system.